Food and Drink

   

Push Button Dumplings

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I like dumplings, therefore I am. If you like touchscreens to, you’ll probably like China Red.

Located at the back of the old Village Cinemas arcade, China Red opened its gilded doors last year, the latest from the owners of dumpling mecca HuTong, a few streets up. In China Red’s front window chefs hand-make dumplings, a curious juxtaposition with the James Bond meets Blade Runner interior that boasts dark wood tables, communist-kitsch murals and not a grimy, soy sauce stained menu in sight.

Instead, there are touchscreens.

Sadly, there’s no Max Headroom to guide you through the day’s specials, though the human factor is still in play with wait staff who direct you to sit with a cursory nod to the touchscreens that translates to ‘work it out’.

Screen after high-res screen of China Red’s finest glows enticingly before us, from dumplings and hand-made noodles to soups and seafood. And there’s no denying that ordering via a screen invites gluttony, perhaps because you know eyebrows won’t be raised when you order that third round of dumplings. Be warned though, a stern sticker informs that once orders are placed they cannot be recalled.

We go for the Steamed Garlic Chive Dumplings with Minced Prawn ($5.80), Spicy Szechuan Noodles in Soup ($8.80) and Pan Fried Dumplings ($8.80). A few button pushes later and our order is placed. We pass the time by flipping through the menu again, because it’s shiny.

Labelled with three ominous chilli’s on the menu, the Szechuan Noodles are more mild than hot, which isn’t a bad thing because they taste so good we wolf them down fast. Served in a modest sized bowl, the noodles are soft and silky, with the minced pork and zingy Szechuan spices making this the perfect comfort dish for a cool autumn evening. Next, the steamed dumplings arrive.

Four tidy little morsels, these dumplings are crammed full of garlic and prawns, two of my favourite things, plus you can actually see and chew and taste the prawns, a rarity in dumplings at this price range.

My compliments to the touchscreen.

Sadly the third act in our touchscreen production is the most disappointing. Not devastating (this is no Godfather III), but not great. Sure, the dumplings look the part, freshly fried and glistening on their fancy stoneware dish, but the beauty’s only skin deep. And a thick, doughy skin it is. Half the battle’s trying to pierce these suckers through the tough, elastic dough. Worse, once you manage to break through with a combination of chopsticks, spoons and sheer will, the prize isn’t worth the pain. Small parcels of pork hide meekly in this hanger of dough, and all the chilli oil and soy I can muster can’t balance it out. Sure, we ate them all, but after the excellent noodles and steamed dumplings, these fried nuggets left a slightly dry taste in the mouth.

Still, I’ll be back to China Red, mainly because I’m easily impressed with gadgets and like the idea of pushing a button and dumplings appearing.

Now only if they could make an app for that.

China Red
Shop 6, 206-208 Bourke St, Melbourne
9662 3688
Mon – Thurs 11.30am – 10.30pm
Fri – Sat 11.30am – 11.00pm


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